Chapter 80 Part 1: Misfortune does not come singly
“Both jiujiu have not visited houfu in a long time. It would be best to chat with waizumu for a while! Work can be done any day, why hurry to do it at this moment? Moreover, jiujiu is currently not in houfu, if you were to go to Qing Song Yuan it would be for nothing!” Yun Qian Meng said with a light smile, preventing Qu Yan and Qu Fu from leaving. They were forced to look at her, their brows quickly furrowing.
“How is that possible? Just now, the steward said that houye was in the fu.” When Tan shi saw that Yun Qian Meng was deliberately making things difficult, she quickly opened her mouth to speak in fear that her husband would lose this perfect opportunity.
She scarcely realized that her words would make everybody in the room turn to her, each with a different expression. Qu Yan's eyes in particular were filled with rage, only then did Tan shi realize that she had fallen into Yun Qian Meng's trap and said the wrong thing. Embarrassed, she staggered from the pressure of Qu Yan's gaze so she quickly lowered her head and did not speak anymore.
“I didn't know that the houfu's steward, who manages the household, also manages his master's whereabouts. Steward Zhang must be getting old and muddled.” Laotaijun had understood Yun Qian Meng's intentions and quickly added with a cold voice.
Laotaijun was all imposing for those unused to her. Even if her words were casual, she was still able to inspire fear in Tan shi and Bai shi.
Bai Shi, who sat bowed beside Tan shi glared hatefully at her, inwardly rebuking her for saying too much. Her own husband and brother-in-law who were on the verge of getting their wish could lose everything, all because of her loose tongue.
Qu Yan was unable to reprimand Tan shi at the moment. When he heard laotaijun go along with Yun Qian Meng's words, those scheming eyes turned to her. He carefully examined her and made sure to engrave her words into his memory.
“Your son and the others exchanged a few words with the steward when we arrived, we did not expect houye to be unavailable. This being the case, your son and the others can accompany mother and chat. We'll just wait for houye to return.” Qu Yan immediately turned the situation around and smiled warmly as both he and Qu Fu returned to their seats with cool composure.
This alarmed Ji Shu Yu and the rest.
It was easy enough to exchange a few pleasantries and wait for Qu Yan and others to leave but if they were determined to stay until dark, she would eventually run out of excuses.
Ji Shu Yu and Qu Fei Qing turned to look at Gu laotaijun yet the old lady merely accepted a cup of tea from a yatou and slowly took a sip. Her face was tranquil and indifferent as she sat there drinking her tea showing no traces of anxiety or fear.
When the both of them saw laotaijun like this, their nervousness abated for them to return to their respective seats. The room, now quiet, only the clinking of the teacups could be heard in the stifling atmosphere.
Tan shi saw that nobody was talking and felt awkward so she tried to change the mood. Her mocking eyes fixated on Yun Qian Meng as she laced her voice with pity. “I heard that last night Chen wang entered Meng'er's chamber. Did it scare you, Meng'er? Really! Mother, dasao, this Chen wang is too much. Even though they were previously engaged, she is still a precious, unmarried xiaojie. How could a man just go into her chamber? Meng'er, what were your yatou and pozi doing? Didn't they even try to stop him? If word gets out, how will you live it down?”
When she finished, Qu Yan and his group all had faces full of derisive smiles. Qu Fei Qing slammed her teacup on the table, face growing dark. Laotaijun only shifted her half-lidded eyes to gaze at Tan shi, a cold smile formed at the corner of her lips.
Yun Qian Meng raised her eyes to looked at Tan shi, a slight smile on her face, she replied in a polite manner, “Thank you for san jiumu's concern. But, as jiumu said herself, you only 'heard'. Of course there is no truth in those rumors. Since father's position as prime minister is influential and extensive, it's unavoidable to unconsciously offend some people. But father is honest and uncorrupt, so it is difficult to find any faults with him. Some vile people took advantage of last night's events to defame Meng'er, hoping to bring shame on father, but the truth lies in facts. Last night father was home in the xiangfu. How could he allow Chen wang to enter the rooms of a woman's courtyard. Surely san jiumu, coming from an upstanding household with great moral integrity, would not stoop to following the herd. Why listen to words that people speak that ignore the truth? Could it be that san jiumu is not afraid of harming the relationship between our families?”
Yun Qian Meng had replied with a calm composure, her tone was neither too fast nor too slow, betraying no worry. Upon hearing her sweet tone on top of everything else, the conversation came to a stop as the other participants were unable to form a reply.
Tan shi saw that Qu Yan did not speak to come to her aid and neither did Gu laotaijun support Yun Qian Meng. Yun Qian Meng's words had just ridiculed her conduct and lack thereof, implying that she was similar to one of those crass women from the marketplace that liked to start quarrels. She was again embarrassed and grew incensed. She immediately replied, “Meng'er, jiumu can't turn a blind eye to these words! As they say, wind from an empty cave is not always without cause! If there wasn't a shred of truth to them, where could the rumors have started from? After all Meng'er lost her mother when she was small and Yun xiang is always very busy, how can he properly teach his daughter? If this matter were to get out, I am afraid that Fu Guo Gongfu would be the one to lose face!”
It seemed that Tan shi had been thoroughly muddled by Yun Qian Meng, words inappropriate to the occasion came out of her mouth. It provoked Qu Yan into glaring at her with all of his energy, but she was enjoying herself and would not let herself be stopped. She would continue until Yun Qian Meng was drowning in tears.
But Yun Qian Meng was unsympathetic. Tan shi's words, however unpleasant, only caused Yun Qian Meng to smile more, and eventually a sound of mirth escaped from her lips. It made laotaijun and Ji Shu Yu look at her with worry.
After Yun Qian Meng laughed her eyes grew cold. “San jiumu knows that Meng'er lost her mother at a young age, yet is being very aggressive to a girl with no mother, certainly lacking the refinement of elders. San jiujiu and san jiumu's health is well, so why does Jing Qing biaojie go to Chen wangfu by herself? What causes Fu Guo Gongfu to be ashamed is biaojie forgetting etiquette. Where could Jing Qing biaojie have learned this from? Even though san jiujiu is concubine-born, Jing Qing biaojie should take care not to make Fu Guo Gongfu lose face.”
Tan shi became speechless. She did not expect Yun Qian Meng to reveal her knowledge of Jing Qing's going into Chen wangfu, especially at this particular moment. She suddenly started to panic, not knowing what to say in reply.
After all, everyone in the capital knew that Chen wang cancelled his engagement to Yun Qian Meng, estranging himself with xiangfu and Fu Guo Gongfu. For the shu son to send his own daughter to Chen wangfu, it would be apparent to outsiders that di and shu had hostile relations with each other. Qu Yan would be seen currying favor with Chen wang, planning to grab the houye seat from Qu Ling Ao.
If Tan shi had not repeatedly slighted Yun Qian Meng, she might have refrained from making Tan shi lose face.
After all, however way you look at it, Qu Yan was still a shuzi of Fu Guo Gongfu. He may be deceitful and ambitious, nominally he still had to call Gu laotaijuun his dimu.
If Tan shi had not closed in on her step by step, Yun Qian Meng would not have spoken such implicating words.
Now that Yun Qian Meng had exposed his activities, Qu Yan immediately growled at Tan shi, “Lowly woman, you dare speak that way in this place? You're not afraid that your racket will disturb mother's peace? We don't live in the fu and official business interferes with how often we can come to visit mother. You come here and speak unpleasant matters, talking about crude topics with no truth. Who do you think wants to listen to such things? The outsiders have long since stopped any talk of this, only you appear to be showing it off like a treasure. Now quickly apologize to mother!”
Qu Yan was a quick thinker, in so few words he had made his innocence clear and laid all the blame on Tan shi. He even used his reprimand as a way to further inflame the events and suggest that Yun Qian Meng's room was indeed searched, killing two eagles with one arrow. Truly evil.
Tan shi was increasingly becoming acquainted with Yun Qian Meng's sharp tongue and after hearing her husband's hints, she immediately stood up from her seat and bowed to Gu laotaijun, saying in a low voice, “Mother, your daughter-in-law has been foolish! Please do not be angry, mother.”
Gu laotaijun saw that she was now meek, completely abandoning her arrogance to Yun Qian Meng just a moment ago. She smiled coldly at this. “You aren't foolish, you knew very well what you were doing. You dare to speak so boldly despite only being a daughter of a small official. All day you can only occupy yourself with chasing the wind and clutching at shadows, engaging in gossip with other questionable women.”
Tan shi saw that Gu laotaijun and Qu Yan would not give her face, even berating her in front of Qu Fei Qing and Yun Qian Meng, two yatou. She was ashamed and her face became red as she pressed her lips tightly together before she unconsciously said something she shouldn't again.
At this moment, the silent Qu Fu hurriedly chimed in. “Please do not be angry mother. San saozi had good intentions and was just advising caution. Moreover, If Yuan de taifei niangniang likes Jing Qing, with san ge and san sao's position, they are unable to refuse her!”
But this had been the first time Qu Fu and Bai shi heard about the matter of Qu Jing Qing discreetly going to Chen wangfu. Earlier, Yun Qian Meng had paid close attention to the reactions of husband and wife, aside from the initial shock, Yun Qian Meng had detected a trace of envy and resentment.
They were brothers from the same mother and Qu Fu did not have his eyes on any juewei. When he saw his own blood brother keeping secrets by sending his daughter to the wangfu, Qu Fu could help but feel some grievance. Especially from the look of Qu Yan, who did not seem at all guilty that he had kept this from his brother.
So Qu Fu spoke against his blood brother and added, “But, this type of matter, san gege should have first consulted his family. If Jing Qing's activities were spread by outsiders, how can san ge and san sao keep face?”
After saying his part, Qu Fu closed his mouth and did not say more. It was difficult to figure out what he was thinking.
He knew that his own circumstances were less favorable, as he was not particularly gifted. He had been supporting his blood brother through the years, fully expecting that once his brother attained the position of houye, he would be able to bask in the glory with him and his daughters would be able to marry well.
He did not expect that while Qu Yan was still not houye, he was already secretly paving the way for his own daughter.
Qu Jing Qing was proud and arrogant, her education left a lot to be desired, and was ill-tempered. If one must be sent to join the princesses of the imperial household, his own daughters, who never set foot outside their home, were better choices. If this type of yatou was able to marry, wouldn't it infuriate the bystanders?
Qu Fu was aware of his own situation, he knew he never had a chance at the marquisate, so he had put all his hopes on his own brother for the sake of his daughters.
When the tide rises, the boat floats. If his brother received the title of houye, his own status would rise as well.
Poultry and dogs rise to heaven. If his daughter married well, then naturally the rest of her family would benefit.
So when they received word that Qu Ling Ao was severely injured and could die at any moment, they quickly ran over to Gu laotaijun in order to deal a heavy blow.
But the Gu laotaijun they saw was well and healthy. They had come to pressure her, but with Yun Qian Meng who stood beside her, add to the fact that Qu Yan tried to seek out higher bearings, it made Qu Fu feel wronged. He would still support Qu Yan on the surface, but his heart had already erupted hostility.
Qu Yan did not expect that today would bring enmity between them.
Yun Qian Meng saw that the relationship between brothers deteriorate before her so she seized the opportunity. “Didn't waizumu say earlier that she was going to visit Nie taiyi? Meng'er has nothing to do today, so let me accompany you.”
Gu laotaijun turned her eyes to Yun Qian Meng. From the corner where Qu Yan and the others could not see, she winked at her. A smile formed on Gu laotaijun's face and she nodded. “Ling Ao will not be back until late. The four of you should go home first. This is one of the female residences of the fu, your remaining here is inconvenient.”
Yun Qian Meng did not wait for Qu Yan and the others to refuse and quickly rose to walk towards Gu laotaijun and lending her her arm to help her up before leaving together.
Qu Yan saw that their plans had been greatly obstructed. He was brimming with rage. He now knew with certainty that as along as Gu laotaijun remained in Fu Guo Gongfu, even if Qu Ling Ao were to die, the marquisate would still not fall to him.
But he could not waste the current opportunity. Qu Zhang Qing was not in the capital and it was unclear whether Qu Ling Ao would survive. It fell to him to catch his rivals unprepared and take the marquisate. If Qu Zhang Qing were to come back it would be too late.
Qu Yan's eyes glinted with a dark light, he looked to Gu laotaijun and the others, relenting. “Since it is like this, your son and the others will withdraw.”
Saying this, he lead his puzzled group out of Rui Lin Yuan.
Yun Qian Meng exchanged a look with Ju Shu Yu who turned to her most trusted mama, and whispered a few words into her ear. That mama quickly turned around and exited the room.
“I did not expect that it would be Meng'er who would protect Fu Guo Gongfu.” Gu laotaijun held Yun Qian Meng's hand. Her heart was filled with sorrow, but as she looked at Yun Qian Meng her eyes showed nothing but gratitude. If Ruo Li could see how staunch and clever her daughter was now she would be very pleased.
Yun Qian Meng smiled calmly, lending an arm to help laotaijun back into her seat. She crouched beside Gu laotaijun and placed both hands gently on laotaijun's knees, smiling, “Meng'er's heart is with Fu Guo Gongfu. Naturally, I will not let anybody bully waizumu. When Meng'er encountered many hardships in the beginning, it was Fu Guo Gongfu that secretly helped Meng'er escape those troubles. How could Meng'er be somebody that does not show gratitude? But based on san jiujiu's actions today, he appears to have allied himself with Chen wang. It is clear that he came with purpose today. Even though we aren't certain that they were the cause of jiujiu's misfortune, how did they receive this news so fast? If it was from a servant in the fu, we must thoroughly dispose of them.”
Ji Shu Yu clarified Yun Qian Meng's words and told all present of the events that happened in Qing Song Yuan. She was able to maintain a cold expression when Qu Yan and the others were here earlier, but thinking about how her already unconscious husband was still the target of attacks, the thought drove her very nearly to the point of tears.
Once Gu laotaijun heard that her son was almost poisoned and could have died, her face grew livid as veins popped from how tightly she gripped her walking stick, her lips shuddered while her cold eyes emitted a strong killing aura. Her voice was loud and commanding. “When you find the culprit, don't even bring them to me, just cane them to death!”
Qu Fei Qing saw that Gu laotaijun was extremely agitated and suddenly feared that the remaining pillar of Fu Guo Gongfu would also fall. She immediately carried over a cup of tea to Gu laotaijun and said consolingly, “Zumu please do not get angry over those terrible people who forget favors and violate justice. They are malicious; the heavens will not allow them to prevail. Wouldn't it be best to tell the Empress Dowager about dad being attacked?”
The group pondered over Qu Fei Qing's words. After a while, Yun Qian Meng looked at Gu laotaijun and said slowly, “Let's keep it hidden for now. They already dared to make noise to find out about jiujiu's injury and taking advantage of the time when biaoge is away from the capital, even using Chen wang's influence to gain the marquisate for Qu Yan. If we took the initiative and let this matter out, we would fall right into their trap. Right now biaoge is on a secret mission for the emperor, his movements remain hidden and his whereabouts are not known. Even if we do find out, we would not want to cause him unnecessary stress. At the front the blades are bright and swords cast shadows, we do not want biaoge to become distracted.”
Gu laotaijun shared the same opinion with Yun Qian Meng, she smiled and nodded. Then she instructed Ji Shu Yu and Qu Fei Qing, “We will only reveal this as a last resort. This matter must remain secret until then. But I will send a trusted servant to discreetly go see the Empress Dowager so she can be on guard. Since they are being this heartless, we must respond in kind. As long as I live, the marquisate will never go to Qu Yan and Qu Fu's.”
Yun Qian Meng lifted her eyes when she heard Gu laotaijun's unflinching speech. She had never seen Gu laotaijun act this way before. Gu laotaijun was after all, a person who carried the weight of Fu Guo Gongfu on her own shoulders, it made Yun Qian Meng feel a great amount of respect towards her.
At this moment, the voice of a mama came from the door. “Laotaijun, Ma huwei is asking for an audience.”
Ji Shu Yu was pleased that the instructions she gave out had been followed, she immediately said, “Let him wait in the anteroom.”
Saying this, Ji Shu Yu supported laotaijun with one hand, leaving Yun Qian Meng and Qu Fei Qing alone as they went into the anteroom. The loyal huwei, Ma, was already waiting in the room. When he saw Gu laotaijun enter he immediately knelt down in greeting, “Beizhi greets laotaijun and furen.”
Gu laotaijun nodded and said lightly, “Rise. What did you discover?”
Ma huwei stood up, slightly leaning his body forward, he systematically related his discoveries to them.
After they heard Ma huwei's report, laotaijun sat upright in her seat, a peaceful look in her eyes. Her appearance seemed calm, her unflustered bearing made Ji Shu Yu feel inferior.
Gu laotaijun eventually removed a red sandalwood and jade bracelet from her wrist to hand over to Ma shiwei. She said in a low voice, “Go to Rong Shan hall and tell Nie daifu to come over. Give him the bracelet. He will follow you back to houfu.”
Ma huwei accepted the bracelet and bowed to laotaijun and Ji Shu Yu before exiting the room.
Laotaijun's heart was still thinking about Qu Ling Ao, she could not rest. She had Ji Shu Yu help her to Qing Song Yuan. When she saw the two yatou that Yun Qian Meng left behind earnestly waiting on her son, she felt relief, and she immediately told Yun Qian Meng, “Today you've been out for so long, I'll have a mama send you back.”
Yun Qian Meng saw that even though laotaijun seemed exhausted, Qu Yan and the others had awakened her motherly love. She knew that laotaijun being this way could not be refused. She nodded and took Mu Chun and her other servants and bade her farewells.
Yun Qian Meng had just stepped into Qi Luo Yuan with her three yatou when Mi mama hurriedly came over to greet them. She had her come into the inner room and she quickly whispered into Yun Qian Meng's ear, “Just now, xiangye had the Minster of Justice go into his study. Based on what the yatou who brought them tea said, xiangye released all his grievances on Su Yuan, the expressions on both their faces were not good. Most probably a rift has formed between them.”
Yun Qian Meng was still thinking about Fu Guo Gongfu's business. She could only smile a little mockingly at Mi mama's news. Add to the fact that she did not get any rest the previous night, she had everybody withdraw. She lied down on her mat to close her eyes and finally get some rest.